Covid-19: Officials concerned at rise in cases among children

Extra testing may be introduced to tackle high case numbers in some counties

Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

Extra testing and other public health measures may be introduced to tackle high Covid-19 case numbers in some counties, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team.

Nphet is considering an “enhanced response” to deal with areas with high disease incidence, assistant chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn told a briefing on Monday.

Officials expressed concern about a rise in cases among younger children but said only a minority of these related to transmission in schools.

Although about 50-60 cases a day are being reported among children of primary school going age, only about 10 per cent of these are associated with school outbreaks, according to Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Nphet epidemiological modelling advisory group.

Dr Glynn said reports from public health doctors pointed to “activities outside schools” being a factor, including playdates and multiple households meeting up in social settings.

The vast majority of parents were “doing the right thing,” he said.

Average case numbers may be starting to increase though the pattern is not entirely clear, Prof Nolan said.

There has been an uptick of infections in the past two to three days but it is too early to say if this is an established trend, he added.

The number of cases last week increased 9 per cent over the previous week, after nine weeks of decline, while the fall in Covid-19 patients in ICU has slowed significantly.

Almost 60 per cent of recent transmission of the virus is occurring in households, according to Prof Nolan. Outside households, almost half of transmissions are occurring in social gatherings and workplaces, he said.

Six out of every 10 cases occur through close contact and 24 per cent in the community.

Although there has been an increase in cases among children aged up to 12, Prof Nolan said very few of these are specifically associated with school outbreaks. One-quarter of cases in outbreaks among children aged up to four has been linked to childcare facilities.

The briefing heard an update on new variant cases: there are now 26 cases of the B1351 variant linked to South Africa; 14 cases of B1525; five cases of B1526; nine cases of P1; and 13 cases of P2.

Asked why some counties have high cases figures, Dr Glynn said the picture was mixed, with a student outbreak in Limerick, cases among Travellers in several counties and in meat processing and other workplaces.

Nphet will meet on Thursday to make recommendations to Government on whether to ease restrictions on April 5th, the briefing heard.

One further death of a Covid-19 patient was reported by Nphet on Monday. This brings to 4,588 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

It also reported 520 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 231,119 the total number of cases in the Republic.

Of the new cases, 242 are in Dublin, 36 in Meath, 30 in Offaly, 29 in Kildare and 25 in Wicklow, with the remaining 158 cases spread across 20 other counties.

The median age of cases is 28 years and 79 per cent are under 45 years.

The 14-day incidence of the disease stands at 157 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Offaly has the highest county incidence, followed by Longford. Leitrim has the lowest incidence.

On Monday morning, there were 359 Covid-19 patients in hospital, including 81 in ICU. There were 14 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

By last Friday, 668,529 doses of vaccine had been administered: 487,466 first doses and 181,063 second doses.